Basse Trip: Pleasant and Enoyable
October 1st, 2010
By Pa Samba Johm
The author recounts his recent trip to Basse. He writes a general overview of the town.
I must start by thanking God for guiding me through my recent trip to Basse. It was, like my previous ones, a very pleasant and enjoyable trip. Basse has always been a sanctuary for me. Before I proceed, let me say upfront that the observations and comments contained in this article are entirely mine; they do not reflect those of the Basse Association. I'm personally accountable for the contents. My intention with this article is to create a meaningful dialogue among the folks regarding the well-being of our beloved town.
The trip across the North Bank was not without its pains: most notably the nerve-racking ferry crossings, the traffic delays and my over-filled passenger vehicle. To my disappointment, folks rarely complained, and to add insult to injury, the public relations of the "apparantis" was to say the least, alarming. It was far from good. Yet the trip had to be, and under some of those unfavorable conditions.
Minus the ferry and traffic delays, the journey wasn't long and along the way, my eyes feasted on the wonders of nature in that part of the country, cutting through Baddibu. I even took part in pulling the ferry at the Bansang river crossing. A group of us, young men, took part in the pulling while the women and the elderly leisurely watched on. It was fun but I was almost left behind (trying to buy mangoes) and I had to sprint and leap over a few meters to land on the edge of the ferry. Everyone clapped. If I had been short an inch or two, I would have landed in the water but, since I can't swim, the long jumping skills I had learned at St. George's Primary came in handy for me. The very thought of not landing onto the ferry terrified me a lot because the end might not have been pretty.
Education is Key
Finally, at about 2pm, we made it to Basse. As usual, I visited family and friends and then took to the streets as I reminisced about my childhood days in what was a much smaller town back then. I tried to retrace some familiar roads but they had long gone. Sometimes, it was hard to recognize places that once were so familiar. During these trips, I often notice that someone like me is not known at all by the youngsters. Not their fault.
I was able to walk around town and do some sightseeing. I observed a lot particularly the environmental cleanliness or lack thereof of the town and the surroundings. I took many trips to different parts of the town and one common concern was the amount of litter all over the place. The market place, the prayer grounds, a branch of the river, the bridge between Basse and Kabakama and the neighborhoods, are all in dire need of cleaning. Garbage: bottles, plastic bags, papers,illegal dumping sites, car tires, and other unwanted public eyesores such as street urination and the stench it comes with, are some of the environmental issues. The lack of proper garbage disposal such as legal dump sites, trash cans, garbage pick up are issues of concern. The lack of a drainage system is also wrecking havoc in town especially during the rainy season when trash is hauled all over town by the rain.
branch of basse river filled with trash
Some of these issues can be addressed easily and locally. I think the Basse Area Council and the local NGOs could be of great assistance. I remember recently, the Basse Youth Association did a great job in repairing the road to Manneh Kunda and Ousainou Krubally, BA's Sports and Culture officer, participated in it and took some nice pictures. The area council can provide trash barrels in town, at the homes; and it can also pick up the trash and treat it. The idea of recycling was very popular when I was young. We picked aluminum cans and glass bottles and sold them for five and ten bututs. We had our own little enterprises and paid for our childhood parties from such monies. Trust me, it was very lucrative. Some of you know exactly what I'm talking about.
In addition, I think educating the people about the dangers involved in an unclean environment has an enormous significance. For instance, filthy stagnant water breeds mosquitoes and malaria. We should be able to use the media, especially the local radio stations, to have a dialogue with the people and this should include various sectors: area council, health department, youth associations and so forth.
The education of our folks will be very beneficial at many levels and it is less costly than the other measures. As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Education is an important function in the area of environmental cleanliness, but it goes further than that. By educating our folks and ourselves, we can learn ways of disease prevention such as, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, obesity, cancer, bacterial and viral ailments, health and nutritional guidelines, and others.
High blood pressure and diabetes have become a menace to our society. With the proper education, these two ailments can be avoided and minimized greatly. I am not an expert on health issues but I know that these two are largely affected by life style and family history. It would be nice if health professionals talked about this in detail. A lot of our people are dying simply because they lack the knowledge about these ailments. The call should be louder on the fact that starch and sugar don't mix with diabetes. Likewise salt and hypertension.
Towards A Better Community
Growing up in Basse taught me a lot about life and togetherness. It was a community imbued with unity. Among the most vivid community-oriented activities I still recall are the cleaning of the cemetery, the building of the central mosque in the 1980s, the friendliness of the people. Basse's culture of hospitality, of treating its visitors well, earned it the nickname "nyam jodo", especially among the civil servants on posting there. Therefore, it wouldn't take much to harness our efforts and move our beloved town in the direction of harmony and unison. Although there are various organizations, it is my belief that we are all aiming for the advancement of Basse. One of the experiences I had during my visit, was meeting BA representatives, the mosque committee and the elders. During the meeting, I observed that miscommunication and mistrust were handicapping efforts at unity in the town. It would be great if every sector of town was on the same page because it would make BA's work much easier. The pushing and pulling is not to anyone's advantage. BA, in my opinion, needs partners on the ground to advice and recommend projects for the benefit of all.
From R-Kaw Yerro,x, Bocarr Njie, Alhagie Nashiru (Alkali) --mosque meeting
Now, as far as BA is concerned, I think there are some improvements we need as well. It is great that within a year, we have been able to embark on some successful projects, but I think that we are neglecting some very fundamental ones. The most important one is that, BA needs to officially go to Basse and conduct a Town Hall meeting, explain the reason (s) for our existence as an organization, our domain of operation and our limitations, including our concerns. It is my fundamental belief that the relationship between those of us in the Diaspora and those at home, is a two way stream with each contributing their quota towards the progress of the homeland. One such area recently embarked upon is the Super Cup Nawettan; the end-result of this community endeavor has been beautiful and encouraging. However, if we do not communicate well with each other, there is bound to be unnecessary misunderstanding. I would very strongly suggest that the first reunion be held in Basse and use it as a platform to introduce BA to the people. BA needs to lay its concerns to the Basse people and the various institutions.
I observed that, in the realm of public life, there were so many things lacking in Basse. These include, and are not limited, to the following: paved roads/streets, parks, proper building guidelines, a major library with standard amenities such as Internet, computers, auditorium, easy accessibility to pipe-born water and most needfully, a reserved piece of land for future communal use. The lack of a drainage system and paved roads continue to cause severe erosion problems in Basse. The expansion of Basse, though very welcomed, puts some strains on limited resources. Hence, it is prudent to make sure that future interests are safe-guarded: future schools, a bigger market place, a public garage station, extra curricular arenas, a bigger hospital and so forth.
Good Things Happening
Yet, there are good things happening in Basse, and they deserve mentioning. Business is booming in Basse and the satellite villages. Commerce is at its peak just like it was in the early 1980s. One can buy anything in Basse today and the town boasts of a few more hotels than there were when I was growing up. Another amenity that has improved since 2008 is electricity. In 2006, Basse had no electricity and I remember mistaking Allunhare for Basse one night that year when visiting town. Although power goes out during certain hours of the day, overall, the system has improved and a lot more homes have electricity now. In addition, Basse has two private radio stations and one government owned: a great improvement. Today, businesses and the general public don't have to send their adverts to the Banjul and Kombo areas. The two private radio stations, Unique FM and Paradise FM, owned by Lamin Manga and Harona Drammeh respectively, are filling a big void in that sector. The two stations are playing a major role in providing for local broadcasting needs. I had the pleasure of visiting Harona's Paradise FM and it is an exquisite station and the staff were very professional. DJ Moses took me on a tour of the place and I was tempted to go on air but had to keep my cool.
I was also very impressed that during our general meeting at the mosque, all parties were represented regardless of the ongoing disagreement. I was honored like a dignitary; and we all tackled the issues. They were ironed out amicably. During my visit, I had the palpable feeling among the people that the advancement of Basse was foremost in their minds. And they demonstrated it by the issues they raised. That meeting was the catalyst for my advocating to have a town hall meeting and the very first Basse reunion there. It would mean a lot to the people there and to us, abroad. The pride shown during the meeting was really touching, that sons and daughters of Basse have taken it upon themselves to help and develop their own homeland. That is a big deal in town.
Enterprise and individual initiative is on the rise in Basse. There are other amenities that have since emerged, and among them, are the casino and taxi cabs. I remember during my first trip in early 2006, I arrived in Basse at about 2am. It was a two-day journey on the road-less south bank. It was a nightmare and when I finally disembarked at the former Commercial bank, I carried my heavy suitcase on my head home. Upon my arrival, my mother saw me sweating and she asked if I had been fighting. Then she asked again, where is the taxi that brought you? I hesitated for a while and said, I did not know that Basse had taxis.
Basse market place by former St joseph's primary
It is important to note that the satellite villages have been growing the "Jurr" mango in the area and during my stay, I noticed that this was becoming a great source of income locally. In the past, such mangoes came from the Kombos. One thing I missed having while in Basse was fresh groundnuts, like the kind my childhood pal Ousman Kamara supplied me in abundance, back in the day. He was a good farmer, and his groundnut harvests were usually impressive. Now, the only farm I know him to visit is Joe Randazzoe's Fruit Market in Detroit. I wonder if he still knows how to hold the hoe and till the soil like the hardworking young farmer he was during childhood.
In addition, the Basse Health Center has been expanded and renovated. It looked great and clean.
Pa Samba Johm is the Public Relations Officer of Basse Association, Inc. He resides in Southfield, Michigan, USA.